Finally, some practical advice on how to actually journal — whether your write, type or record it. Plus, I’m giving away a free guided AM+PM journal. Enjoy!Read More
Doing things differently may look ridiculous compared to the ‘best practice’ but if you walk in obedience, you will be just fine.Read More
How to freely embrace the future, without being crippled by past loss and disappointment.Read More
To whom much is given, much is expectedRead More
Why it’s better to question, than to live in silent confusion.Read More
Why sometime, doing 'your own thing' is just an empty use of time.Read More
If you've ever asked yourself, can I really wait for all these years? Can I keep the faith?Read More
"Use every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live"Read More
There’s nothing wrong with progression, we’re made to grow and evolve, not stay stagnant. But when we get a quiet moment to ourselves, sometimes these questions come loud and clear. When will I be truly be satisfied? Why am I going for all these things, what’s the point? Is it worth putting in all this effort to prove to myself and the world that I can do this? To what end?Read More
What we think is protecting us is really killing us slowly, especially when it comes to relationships.Read More
How many times have we finally got what we’ve been pushing for, only to come across a few more hurdles or roadblocks?Read More
As requested, watch my recent full-length interview with YPHD on life, faith and doing things that matter. Enjoy!Read More
When we boldly give the little we have, just because it could help someone else, we open ourselves up to a world of unexpected opportunity.Read More
Transformation doesn't happen overnight; it is a road that unfolds in front of you where the possibilities are endless.Read More
There's way more to this well-known phrase than we think.Read More
If you have ever disappointed yourself to the point that you don’t even recognise who you are.Read More
What do you do when you feel out of your depth? This week, a familiar story will show that using what you do have in the present moment is what really counts.Read More
“You don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong” – James 4:2-3 NLT
There it was, in black and white – the reason I had been making much slower progress in certain areas of my life than I should have (or none at all). After some thought, it became clear that I had some reservations with prayer which stopped me from connecting with God. It seems that other people share some of these reservations about praying, so let’s tackle a couple.
1) When you don’t feel ‘good enough’ to talk to God
Sometimes it feels like you shouldn't/can't pray because you've been away from God or you’ve done something ‘bad’. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While we sometimes have to ‘earn’ our position with people around us, our relationship with Jesus is not based on performance, it is based on His love. He doesn’t keep score of what we’ve done wrong. If God wanted us to be perfect before we could even speak to him, then Jesus’ entire life, death and resurrection would have been pointless.
An example of this is the story of Cain, who had just killed his own brother, Abel out of jealousy. Naturally, there was a consequence for Cain’s actions: being exiled from his home country. But even in his punishment, Cain asked God to go slightly easier on Him, and not only did God hear, He listened:
Cain said to God, “My punishment is too much. I can’t take it! You’ve thrown me off the land and I can never again face you. I’m a homeless wanderer on Earth and whoever finds me will kill me.”
God told him, “No. Anyone who kills Cain will pay for it seven times over.” God put a mark on Cain to protect him so that no one who met him would kill him.
– Genesis 4:13-15 (MSG)
If God can do this for Cain, He is more than willing to listen to you as well. No matter what you’ve done. Simple as that.
In another part of the Bible, God says:
I looked for someone to […] take a stand for me and stand in the gap to protect this land so I wouldn’t have to destroy it. I couldn’t find anyone. Not one. – Ezekiel 22:30 (MSG)
Two things jump out here: 1) God looked simply for ‘someone’, not a good or perfect person, just a person. 2) While God doesn’t necessarily need us to make decisions, He actively invites and seeks people who are bold enough to put up their hand, open their mouths and join Him on this journey of life. We can either play an active or passive part – it’s our choice.
It’s that clear that our behaviour doesn't push God away from us, but sometimes we feel more distant, maybe because of guilt or condemnation from ourselves and others. But remember that there’s no condemnation in Jesus, so whenever you’re ready, He will be there listening.
To be clear, this doesn't mean that we should live a reckless life. But our primary focus shouldn’t be ‘being good’, but knowing Jesus. From this relationship our lives, and as a result our behaviour, changes. Our relationship with God is not earned, it is a free gift, whether we choose to accept it our not. The first way to build this relationship is by chatting to God, and getting to know Him through is Word, the Bible.
2) When you feel like you can’t find the right things to say
You are free to try (and maybe, get it wrong sometimes).
Sometimes I am focused on getting things 100% right, so much that it prevents me from even trying in the first place. This perfectionist tendency can sometimes show itself in our prayer lives (or lack thereof). It’s easy to be worried about getting prayer wrong ‘because your motives [desires] are all wrong’.
While that is a risk and reality, we have just learned that God isn’t looking for perfection, He is looking for you. So if your motives are off, He can easily guide you back on track, but you’ve got to start somewhere. Think about it like this: when drafting an essay, or a report, it’s rare to get to the final version without sharing a ‘draft’ with someone, and getting some feedback. It's similar with God, everything is a process.
I’ve put this into practice by being very intentional with prayer. I've written down things I want to talk to God about, and asked Him to refine my motives and show me what I should really focusing on. Then I've prayed by talking and asking questions out loud about the things I've written down (speaking out loud is so important, just try it you've got nothing to lose).
If you’re looking for a bit more structure than that – it’s always good to start with what Jesus recommends in Luke 11. You can also try what UCB recommends. Also, look at what Paul tells the Philippians:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition [asking, requesting], with thanksgiving [thankfulness], present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus – Philippians 4:6-7
So, feel free to ask, feel free to experiment and grow in this area which is so fundamental to your walk with God. You’ll get there. Finally, all of this is contingent upon the fact that we are speaking to God in faith. Faith is:
“The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd” – Hebrews 11:1-2 (MSG)
In this week’s subscriber email, we’ll be learning more about the importance of faith. Thanks for reading again everyone, speak to you next week :)
“If it seems slow in coming, wait. It's on its way. It will come right on time.” – Habakkuk 2:3
Sometimes it feels like things are just taking too long. 'Things' could be getting the right job, starting a new project, finding a life partner... and the list goes on. We can feel rushed, like time is running out and we are slowly falling behind our peers. It’s all too easy to become frustrated, anxious or desperate seize any opportunity that emerges. After all, life is a ‘hustle’ and we all compete in the rat race. Right?
Maybe not. Psalm 37 says;
“Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. .
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this.
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn” Psalm 37:3-6
Throughout this Psalm we're encouraged to “wait on”, “trust”, “commit to” and “be still before” God, even when it seems like everyone else is progressing by any means necessary. Why would the Bible, which is supposed to be the ultimate guide to life, encourage us to stand still in a world where everything moves so fast?
“Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes [in Me] will not be in haste.’” - Isaiah 28:16
Like many people going through life, I have been confused and unsure about the pace of specific things, for example, my career. But these sayings gave me a lot of peace; because if I believe in and lean on Jesus there should be no need to rush and race others, because he has made ‘everything beautiful in it’s time’. And yes, while God can accelerate processes, most of the time we will find our patience being stretched. Learning to wait gives us space to mature, strengthen our faith and fully rely on God by trusting that He is working it all out for our benefit (as the Bible says). Waiting isn’t always easy, but with God it’s always worth it.
An example of this is in the life Jesus himself. After feeding 5,000 people with very little food, everyone was amazed at what he had done. “Knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, [Jesus] withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” – John 6:15 (emphasis added)
The prospect of being crowned king isn’t such a bad idea. If I was there with Jesus, I probably would have said something along the lines of 'definitely go for it, isn’t this why you said you were coming in the first place? The crowd loves you and being King is definitely an upgrade on your current job as a carpenter/roaming preacher. Seize the opportunity to develop your career’. It would have been strange to see Jesus withdraw from the crowds of people to be by himself – where was his ambition? His tenacity? Some things I learned from this were:
1) 'Good opportunities' may not be right for you at this point in your life. But it’s very difficult to tell in the midst of all the general busyness of our daily lives. Most times, true clarity comes when it’s just God and us. When we take a breather. Taking the time to stop and think brings clarity to situations, as even the most attractive opportunity may lead us down the wrong path (Proverbs 14:12). This is what it means to distinguish between a 'good thing' and something which is from God (more on 'Good or God' at the end of this post). We should never feel pressured to go at the pace society expects us to
2) Waiting on and trusting God is a habit. It's interesting to see that Jesus withdrew “again” to a mountain. On various occasions we see him separate himself from the hustle and bustle of life as to get clarity (Mark 1, Luke 6). Patience and waiting, like most important things in life, needs to be practiced regularly to have an impact in our lives
This is what will keep us focused on our own personal journey, the Right Path. Taking time with God reminds us of the specific promises and plans he has for each of us, both individually and collectively. He always finishes what he starts (Isaiah 55:11), you can trust that without obsessing over the pace.
Some questions that came up while I was writing this post:
Q: How do I hear from God while I’m waiting?
A: Primarily through God's spoken Word – the Bible. Also, by praying and ‘doing life’ with other people who are on their own journey with Jesus. I’ve found these three things, in that order, bring clarity and direction to life when things get a bit frantic. God also speaks in a number of other ways to different people, for example some people have a strong feeling while others might have dreams. You’ll discover the way(s) in which God speaks to you as you grow in your relationship with Jesus. Like all things on this journey, none of us are 100% there yet, so don’t be daunted, just start somewhere
Q: Does this mean I should be passive or take a back seat in the things I’m passionate about?
A: Definitely not. Waiting on God helps find the healthy balance between living a passive, inactive life and frantically running from opportunity to opportunity trying to fill our lives with meaning. God expects us to step up and make the most of God-given opportunities and dreams. But if you're feeling rushed and desperate to progress your life prematurely, it's worth pausing for a moment...
Q: I think I’ve acted a bit too quickly in a certain area of my life and now I don’t know what to do…
A: In short, with God it's never too late to reroute. He will make up for lost time, nothing is wasted with Him
Sidenote: I’m currently doing a YouVersion reading plan on distinguishing between whether an opportunity is a “Good or God” opportunity. It’s also based on this book by John Bevere, which is on my reading list. Enjoy!
For more posts, resources and thoughts for your journey, subscribe by clicking the box below:© Copyright Noterie, 2015
Joyce Meyer - Colour Conference 2015
What do we do when someone else has what we have? Can we keep a good attitude? Does this mean God loves them more than us?
Firstly, we need to understand that 'before God does anything for us, he needs to do something in us' (Joyce) - be it strengthen, mature us or develop our faith. And 'if we don't get the lesson God is teaching us then he touches our circumstances' (Joyce) which happen through either successes or challenges. Typically 'we live life forwards, but we only understand it backwards' (Joyce) - in hindsight. I hope this post sheds some light on your past experiences and gives you hope that God does love you very much and has a plan for your life. Everything is on track as long as you keep believing, even if your immediate circumstances may not reflect what you want, or what you have believed looks like a 'godly life'. Let's compare two examples of people loved by God but who experienced the signs of His promises in very different ways:
1) Noah builds an ark
After God cleansed the World in the flood, God sent Noah a rainbow (Genesis 9:12-16), as the sign of a covenant that this would never happen again. This was the first rainbow ever, so Noah was pretty lucky to receive such a beautiful symbol in nature
It must have taken great faith and obedience to do this; to leave behind your 'normal life' and start building an ark when there was no rain, and no one else is doing it (Genesis 5).
This was also an incredibly lengthy task, it took c.100 years for Noah to complete (compare Genesis 5:32 and 7:6).
Are we willing to wait through the long-haul? Do we trust God enough?
If Noah had held on to everything he had, he wouldn't have built the Ark and he would have been washed away in the flood just like everyone else. If we truly believe God is who he says he is, and he loves us like he says he does then anything he asks us to do is infinitely better than what he's asked us to leave behind, even if we can't see clearly what the future holds. Sometimes why we haven't experienced our 'rainbow' season is because we're not willing to let go of what we have now, we're not willing to subvert the status quo and prepare for something something 'crazy' that God is calling us to do. Other times, we don't experience the rainbow because we aren't as willing to put the time and effort in for it.
Following God's teachings will never leave us swept up in a sea of opinions and competitors, He will keep us afloat no matter what the rest of the world is going through - just as He kept Noah's family safe and secure.
Navigating this gap between leaving the known and stepping into the unknown is made easier by our faith and so, we need to 'level-up' faith to access the next stage of God's plan for our lives.
2) Now we fast forward to the life of Abraham
Abraham is hailed throughout the Bible as a great man of faith, who loved God and was ultimately the father of Israel. Just like Noah, God cut a covenant with Abraham as well, God told him that he would become the father of many nations, he would be exceedingly fruitful and be given land for himself (Genesis 17:6-9). And as a sign of this great promise Abraham was required to have a circumcision (Genesis 17:10-11).
Let's consider the facts for a moment - Abraham loved God, and God had told him all these great things. I'm sure Abraham would have heard about Noah's story and the rainbow which was passed down through generations. If I was Abraham, I would have been getting ready to turn to the sky and look for some other beautiful symbol of God's promise. instead, it turns out, that all Abraham got was a circumcision. How anti-climatic.
If I was Abraham or his family, I would have been incredibly confused, I would have said - wait, aren't you God's favourite? Why are you being cut in an intimate place and having to experience pain when Noah got a rainbow? Are you sure you're serving the same God?
When we compare Abraham and Noah's stories we see that God operates in our lives in different ways. As Joyce said, 'everyone gets something and everyone doesn't get something else'. By the end of our lives we would have experienced a wide range of both 'circumcisions' and 'rainbows' - ups and downs but the fact is that all of it is part of God's wider plan for us individually. Regardless of how we expect a 'godly' and 'blessed' life to look, He will give us the type of situation that will mature us for the next stage in life. Therefore it is pointless to compare a snapshot of your life with someone else's because we are all on our own separate journey. We know that in the end, Abraham did become the father of many nations, he had a child at age 100 and he and finally, his family were so wealthy, the land could not contain it (Genesis 13:2). Abraham's life was littered with rainbow-moments, but if he had given up on God during his circumcision and compared himself to Noah he would have never given himself the chance to experience everything else God had to offer
Sometimes, this is why we give up
We give up on relationships, families, businesses and ultimately our walk with God. Because we look around us and see rainbows, which are beautiful and visible to everyone who can see. By contrast circumcisions are painful, intimate and not seen by the general public. Therefore, don't be disheartened when you see other people's 'rainbows' because 'circumcisions' are happening all over the place as well, we just can't see them. Both rainbows and circumcisions are from God, and our experience of 'good' and 'bad' situations doesn't change the fact that God is using it all for our benefit. Difficult situations where we feel at rock bottom, can drive us to lean on God and increase our faith in Him. As the Message translation puts it so eloquently:
"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule" - Matthew 5:3
Tough situations can also be a sign of maturity in your walk with God; before the rainbow sometimes we need a circumcision, a removal of an old layers in our lives or our character, that might be limiting us from going to the next level of knowing God.
This is reflected through Jesus' teaching to Peter
In John 21:18, Jesus tells Peter that when he is young in the faith, he did whatever he wanted, but as he matures God will bring him to situations that don't look as conventionally attractive. Of course, this was a difficult truth for Peter to accept, and he asked, whether the same thing would happen to John who was close behind (verse 21). Jesus' simply replied "what's it to you?" (verse 22). Sometimes we like to see someone else experiencing challenges as well in order to console ourselves but what Jesus is saying here is: focus on yourself. Our eyes should be fixed on who God is and developing our relationship with Him because when we use other people's experiences as a barometer for our 'progress' in life we will end up being either:
1) Self-inflated and feeling better than, (which is always short-lived);
2) Jealous, demotivated and/or outside of God's love
Finally, let's consider another 'hero' of the Bible as a further example
King David. Arguably one of the most important and praised King's in the Bible, he also wrote many of the Psalms and was an excellent leader. As a young man he was selected out of all of his brothers to be King over Israel - that's a huge rainbow moment, however he did not actually assume kingship until 20 years later. During those 20 years:
The King who first mentored David, Saul became jealous and spent countless times chasing him across the Middle East trying to kill him
His son Amnon raped his daughter, Tamar (Amnon's half sister)
Tamar's brother Absalom killed Amnon in revenge then tried to steal the throne from his father David
One of his children died as a baby (due to David's own sin) despite David pleading, praying and fasting to God to save the child's life
These are all incredibly difficult circumcision-like moments. But when we hear about King David, the first thing that springs to mind are all his rainbow moments, all the glamorous parts. Again, we only hear of the rainbows, not the circumcisions - however it is during these tough situations where David developed his leadership skills, won the loyalty of key people and learned how to be merciful to his enemies (for example, on multiple occasions he had to opportunity to kill Saul and he never did). During these challenges, David could have abandoned God or given up on the fact he would ever become King, but his "slow burn" faith and confidence in who God is sustained him. All of his experiences contributed to what made him the great leader that we hear of today, and they shouldn't be overlooked.
What we can learn from the lives of Abraham, Noah, David and many others in the Bible is to embrace the ups and downs of life. Embrace your rainbows and your circumcisions because, ultimately we can have confidence in the fact that:
"In all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" - Romans 8:28
© Noterie, 2015